As the second half of a year-long seminar, this course is designed to continue to give you foundational tools in the liberal arts: critical reading of primary sources, analytical writing, oral presentations, and research dissemination of new media. Whereas last semester introduced the study of the fine arts, this semester shifts to the humanities: history, literature, philosophy, and religion. Our focus will be on understanding Hope College in the context of Western culture in the modern period, since about 1500. Some basic skills we will work on this semester include: asking good questions of primary and secondary material and of each other, the rhetoric of entering into academic conversation, and digital research and presentation.

IDS 180-181 Mellon Scholars Seminar Goals

  • Understand the process of research and how digital tools can help conduct and disseminate that research.
  • Interpret primary and secondary materials and texts
  • Research and publish collaboratively

Cultural Heritage (CH2) goals:

  1. Use the fundamental tools common to the humanities (reading, writing, asking good questions, constructing arguments) both to enrich your life and to achieve more practical goals.
  2. Read primary historical, literary, and philosophical texts critically, imaginatively, and reflectively, in order to understand yourself, others, and the world better.
  3. Understand the Western cultural inheritance, its chronological development, its strengths and weaknesses, and its relation to non-Western cultures and their development and strengths and weaknesses.


By focusing on these goals, this course is also meant to help you explore what you care about, deepen what you think, and become a better thinker about life in general. Here are some intellectual qualities I hope you will develop further in this course (these five categories are also the goals of the Global Learning part of general education):

  • Curiosity: How can I unlock the meaning of difficult texts? How can I ask good questions in order to understand different perspectives and inform my judgments and decisions? What beliefs do I bring and how do they shape my perspective on things? How do others, both next to me and in the past, think and feel?
  • Knowledge: How did modernity develop out of the Middle Ages? How does the history of the modern period help us understand our culture today? How has Christianity shaped the modern world? How do the disciplines of literature, history, and philosophy provide understanding of cultures and worldviews?
  • Empathy: How does knowing more about history help us identify with the ways others are like us and empathize across our differences? How do literature and philosophy help us deal better with conflict?
  • Self-Awareness: What are my basic beliefs and worldview? What is my cultural heritage? How is it valuable and questionable? How does it differ from that of others?
  • Responsibility: How do the texts we are reading apply to me? What does it mean to be a good member of a community, local, national, or global? What is a good life? What do I want to live for? How do I feel called to meet others’ needs?



Participation and attendance (200 points, 20%): I will be expecting your active, engaged participation. This does not mean you need to say something every day, or that I give points based simply on how much you talk. I respect the value of silent participation, but there is a difference between engaged listening and inattention. I invite you to take advantage of the opportunity to raise questions and to develop your thoughts by articulating them. The course will be most valuable if it becomes an ongoing conversation about the material. To each class session, please bring a 3-by-5 card with two good questions about the readings assigned for that day. These will count toward your participation for each day. If you are absent, you may email your questions.

Attendance is required. I will excuse three absences automatically; beyond the third I will ask for a documented excuse. If you know you will need to miss a class for a good reason, please let me know ahead of time. Each unexcused absence beyond the third will lower your grade by a third of a letter. Ten total unexcused absences will result in automatic failure of the course. Unauthorized cell phone/computer usage will be counted as an absence.

Question papers (50 points each, 5% each; 15% total): Three times during the semester, I ask that you write a 2-page paper (600-800 words) that asks a good question and begins to answer it. The goal is to enter into dialogue with texts and people from the past and discover something new, especially about yourself, by doing so. A question paper should deal with the readings assigned for class on the day it is due (otherwise I will deduct points), though it may also refer to previous readings and class discussions. Here are the criteria I will use in grading question papers:

  • The quality of the question. A good question should open up further thought about the text. It should not be something you could easily look up an answer to. It should be a question that would be interesting to discuss with members of the class. It may be a question that would take more than two pages to answer well, so that the rest of your paper can just make a good start toward answering it. A good question may also lead to more questions, but that’s okay as long as your two pages are coherent and interesting. Your questions can be about anything that interests you. If you’re having trouble coming up with a question, try thinking about the overarching questions of the course and how they might pertain to the text at hand (e.g. “What does this text have to say about the purpose of human life?”). As we go, I hope you’ll learn to ask the kinds of questions that characterize literary, historical, and philosophical inquiry. I also encourage you to find ways of connecting what you read to the rest of your life (e.g. “What does Virgil’s Aeneid have to do with leading my Young Life group?”), but not at the expense of listening closely for what the text has to say.
  • A good thesis that focuses your answer to your question. A good thesis for an essay is a good answer to a good question, so the question paper format is also a way of practicing writing focused, thesis-driven essays. Beginning with your question helps you get to the focus of your paper quickly, without a long introduction, and allows you to be more exploratory and less definitive about how you support your answer(s).
  • Close engagement with the texts. Good writing will come from good reading. These papers should express what you think the text is saying, or could be saying, to anyone. It may also go on to address what you think it is saying to you personally as a twenty-first-century, male/female, African-American/Dutch-American/etc., etc. person and what you would like to say back to the text. Each question paper should include at least two direct quotations from the text(s) you are discussing. This is a way of keeping your writing close to the reading. More quotations can be good too, but don’t devote more space to quotations than to your own words. A fully developed response to a good question would require more support than you could give in two pages, but you should give some. Include page numbers or line numbers that would allow a reader to find your citation easily. For parenthetic citations with passages set off by quotation marks, the citation should come after the close quotation marks but before the sentence’s final punctuation mark, like this: “Arma virumque cano…” (Virgil, Aeneid, 1.1). Here the 1.1 indicates book 1, line 1. You don’t need to include the name of the author and title of the work if it is already clear from your text what you are citing.
  • Appropriate academic style. You may use first-person pronouns and be personal, creative, and playful, but in ways that are suitable for the classroom.
  • Correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

See separate links to further pages about asking good questions and a sample question paper.

Question papers submitted after class the day they are due will lose 2 points, and 2 further points for each additional week they are late.


Timeline/commonplace book (50 points, 5% total): A timeline of the period covered by the course integrated with your responses to quotations drawn from course readings will synthesize your knowledge and give you an opportunity to make it more personal. See separate assignment page.

Digital project (600 points, 60%): See final project rubric on the course’s WordPress page.


You will need the following:

  • Graff and Birkenstein, They Say / I Say
  • González, The Story of Christianity, Volume 2: The Reformation to the Present Day, second edition
  • Delbanco, College—What It Was, Is, and Should Be
  • Kennedy and Simon, Can Hope Endure?
  • Voltaire, Candide (any translation/edition will do)
  • Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (any edition will do as long as it is in the original, early modern form of English)
  • Mandel, Station Eleven

Other texts will be available through the course’s WordPress page, ids181.alexgalarza.com.


I will try to give you constructive feedback on your written work and return it to you before the next similar assignment is due. I am also happy to give you feedback on your work in progress, either in person or by email. If you send me a draft of all or part of a paper, I ask that you accompany it with at least one question about it you would like me to respond to , such as how good the thesis is or how well it fulfills a part of the assignment. I will try to respond to emailed requests for feedback within a day; sometimes I can be much quicker.

The clumsiest sort of feedback is grades as a summary of overall performance on an assignment or in the course. I will score each assignment with a point value, which you can convert to a letter grade as follows:

  • 94% of possible points and above=A, 90-94%=A- (excellent)
  • 87-90%=B+, 83-87%=B, 80-83%=B- (good)
  • 77-80%=C+, 73-77%=C, 70-73%=C- (acceptable)
  • 67-70%=D+, 63-67%=D, 60-63%=D- (poor)
  • Less than 60%=F (failure)


In order to improve as a teacher, I need feedback too. At the end of the semester, at least, I will ask you to assess how well this course has met its goals. Your responses will be anonymous. I will take the collective results seriously in my efforts to improve this course. I really do find this kind of feedback helpful and ask that you give it your best attention.

Students with Disabilities

Any student whose disability falls within the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act should inform me at the beginning of the semester of any special accommodations or equipment needs necessary to complete the requirements for this course. Students must register documentation with the Office of Disability Services andor Academic Support Center. If you have questions, call Student Development at extension 7800.

Academic Honesty

All work turned in for this course should represent the work of the person whose name appears on it. Representing another’s work as your own is not only dishonest, it also defeats your learning. Please do learn from others by discussing texts and assignments with them both inside and outside of class. I am happy to discuss assignments with you while you are working on them. And you are welcome to learn from any other sources. In the end, however, all papers and exams must be done by you alone. Unacknowledged use of another’s exact words is plagiarism. Any quotation or direct copying from another’s work must be set off from your text either by quotation marks or by indentation, and it must be given an adequate citation (this includes quotations from our required texts as well as any other sources you use). Paraphrases must also be given an adequate citation. If you are uncertain about how to avoid plagiarism or how to give adequate citations, consult A Writer’s Reference, and if you have any questions, talk with me. Cases of academic dishonesty will be handled using the procedures outlined in the Hope College Catalog. The penalty is failure, either of the assignment or of the entire course, depending on the instructor’s judgment of the seriousness of the case. For more on plagiarism—what it is, why it matters, the penalties, how to avoid it, and what others on campus think about it—see Van Wylen library’s page on it at http://www.hope.edu/lib/plagiarism/index.html.


See the course WordPress page, ids181.alexgalarza.com.